ACH, card payments on the rise as checks continue to slide: Fed

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The recent Federal Reserve Payments Study offers credit unions a preview of payments trends moving into the new decade.

Core noncash payments, including credit and debit cards, ACH and checks, continue to rise, reaching $97.04 trillion in 2018, up more than $10 trillion from three years before. Card payments continue to trump all other methods, accounting for 75.3% of transactions, according to the Fed. Chip use has also risen, with more than half of all consumers using EMV-enabled cards for in-person payments in 2018 compared to just 2% in 2015.

The Fed’s findings echo results from PSCU’s annual Eye on Payments study, which found that consumers tend to reach for their cards over other payment forms since consumers value convenience and ease of use.

Check usage continues to fall, the Fed noted, with check payments dropping 7.2% per year from 2015 to 2018. Meanwhile, ACH debit transfers finally exceeded check payments in 2018, at 16.6 billion and 14.5 billion, respectively. At the turn of the century there were more than 32 billion check payments annually and 2.1 billion ACH debit transfers.

While the average ATM withdrawal continues to increase, frequency is down, with ATM cash withdrawals dropping by 100 million since 2015 to 5.1 billion in 2018.

The 2019 study is the seventh time the Fed has conducted this annual report on U.S. consumers’ payment behaviors.

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